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Entrepreneur’s February 2009 issue had a really good article that explains how you can analyze a company by all the things that happen while you are at the interview.  Some examples in my recent past directly apply to this article.

All the Small Things

The first thing the article says to look out for is the small things.  Did the company validate your parking?  Did they offer to help with directions on getting in or out of the building?  Did they offer you anything to drink, or ask if you need to use the bathroom?  This tells me whether or not they care about their people.  If they are not taking care of me, what does that say about the way they treat their employees?

When I interviewed at my last job, I had to meet with 3 different people.  When I got there, the person I met with asked me if I needed to use the bathroom or wanted a drink of water.  He repeated asking me this after the first 2 interviews.  The way he treated me gave me a really good impression that he takes care of his employees.  I ended up taking the job, and my impressions were right.  He put people first, and his team was successful.

Interviewer’s Priorities Reflect Company’s Priorities

The article goes on to say that if the interviewer is late and seems to be viewing the resume for the first time that it is a clue that the company is somewhat hectic and unorganized.  If the interviewer isn’t enthused about the company mission and work responsibilities, how can the interviewee be?

One time I referred a friend to a job opening at a place where I was working.  His interview was scheduled for 4:00pm, and he had to meet with three people.  Another meeting was scheduled that involved 3 of the people at 4:30pm.  The first person interviewed with my friend and he wrapped up around 4:25pm.  Rather then postpone, delay, or not attend the meeting, one of the other two people decided the candidate could wait until after the meeting because they thought it would end quickly.  The meeting did not get out until 5:15pm.  That meant my friend was waiting in a conference room for 45 minutes.  Even if it was not my friend, I would not feel comfortable about this situation.  It just sends the wrong message about where the company’s priorities lie.  They put deadlines and meetings ahead of people.

Good Cop Bad Cop

The article discusses the types of questions interviewers ask during interviews.  Are they too difficult?  Too easy?  Do they even apply?  If the questions are too easy the article says the job might not be challenging enough.  If the questions are too difficult or do not apply, it is almost as if the interviewer is trying to prove they are smarter than the candidate.

This has never happened to me personally, but I have a friend that went on an interview once that had a similar experience.  The interviewer asked really tough questions, and seemed very cocky.  This turned off my friend, and he didn’t even contemplate taking the job.

A Good Fit

The article wraps up with the writer describing how he got his current job.  His interviewer asked challenging but applicable questions.  It allowed the interviewer to evaluate his skill level.  The author also felt he could learn a lot from the interviewer.  This would also be important to me.  If  you are considering taking on a challenging job, you would be better off if your manager could help guide you in difficult times.  If your manager isn’t that type of person, you better be a great self-starter or already know everything there is to know about the job.

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This book is all about rejecting the status quo, leading your own tribe, and getting people to come along.  If this movement can be successful then companies can thrive.  Anyone in the organization can lead.  Individuals have more leverage than ever before.  Your idea could change the game.  Take a stand.  Make a difference.

A tribe is a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.  Tribes are everywhere.  With the help of the internet, they don’t need to be localized.

The Factory

Many of us are stuck working for companies who follow archaic rules.  They not only try to avoid change, but they actively fight it. We’re pessimistic and are worried about the outcome of change. We manage instead of lead.  The problem is that without change you cannot sustain your success.  Examples used in the book included AOL and Sears. Once successful companies at the top of their game, they are now lost in the shuffle amid better companies who embraced change.

An example that might be relevant to today’s culture, is Facebook.  A few years ago MySpace was #1 in the social networking world.  Then Facebook started to change.  At first people resisted the change creating groups “Bring back the old Facebook.”  But look at Facebook now.  It proudly sits at #1 because they kept innovating.  Even as Twitter has emerged, Facebook keeps adding features to remain competitive.  And when was the last time you logged into your MySpace account?  Better yet, when was the last you made a change to your MySpace page?

Managers vs. Leaders

A manager completes tasks assigned to them by someone else.  They don’t encourage change because they do not feel that it is required of them.  They are worried they will get fired.  Leader’s don’t care for this organizational structure or process.

I recently heard stories from friends of mine who received very negative, one could say threatening, emails from their managers in attempts to motivate them.  Rather than saying, “What did we miss?  How could we have done this better?  Let’s look at it together and see what we can do.”  the worker was told, “You can be sure this will be mentioned on your review.  I can’t believe what a poor job this was.”  I think the manager felt threatened about the quality of his worker, but did not react in a way to make his worker want to do better.  In a similar situation, after a delivery went bad, a manager sent out an email to his team saying “Maybe you guys should update your resumes with the results of this project.”  If that was sent to me, I would have updated my resume all right.

A tribe contains a leader with motivated employees.  The employee wouldn’t need to be reprimanded, because they would want to improve their work.  In a tribe, the leader and the employees under him have common interests.

Average and Mediocre

Companies often strive to maintain the status quo.  This will work in a stable environment.  But with new technology and the recent economic events nothing is stable.  Time moves too fast, and if you don’t change to keep up you’ll be left behind.  Instead people fight hard to defend the status quo and prevent change.  It wears them out.  It’s like being stuck on a sinking ship with nothing but a bucket to move incoming water.  They don’t have time to patch the hole, or even to try and figure out where it’s coming from.  They’re too busy moving the water.  Sooner or later that ship will sink.

Companies that destroy the status quo will survive.  It is up to the leaders within these companies to push for this to happen.  We can be the leaders.  It doesn’t matter where we fall on the org chart.  We just need to speak up, and motivate enough people to see the need for change. “In unstable times, growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations, instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less.”

The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle states that a company will reward a good employee by promoting him to a level where he becomes incompetent.  “Johnny is a really good Support Rep, the best we’ve got.  Let’s promote him to Support Lead.”  Johnny ends up being a terrible lead.  He was great at a support rep and working with customers, but he just doesn’t have the management or leadership skills.  This, in a nutshell, is the theory behind the Peter Principle.

Godin states that this can be counter-acted if the right people are promoted.  Leaders will realize that their skill set may not be the best fit for the new position, but being aware of this, they will learn what is required to do the job well.

If we are aware that we are not good at a new position, we’ll do what we can to try and be better at the position.  However, I see ‘The Peter Principle’ happening too often in the real world.  People are put in the wrong positions progress slows.  It would be ideal if the leaders above them then work with these people to try and make them better at their job.  In today’s world of ASAP and “have to have it now” leaders would have a hard time doing both their job and mentoring their subordinates.

Curious George

Godin says there are 2 kinds of people:  fundamentalists and the curious.  Fundamentalists consider whether a fact is acceptable to their belief before they accept it.  A curious person will explore first and then consider whether or not they accept the ramifications.  A curious person will embrace the tension between his core beliefs and something new.  They will think heavily on it and come to a decision on whether or not to embrace it.

This small section of the book may have been my favorite.  I immediately thought of when some people discuss politics.  Regardless of weighing the pros and cons of one side, they immediately take the side of their political party.  “This is what my party believes therefore I believe it to be right.”  I prefer to weigh each topic separately.  It bothers me when people see things always as black or white; a lot of topics have a grey area, and there is no right or wrong answer.  Learn as much as you can before you make a choice.  Be curious.

A Leader Gets His Hands Dirty

Today’s society leads us to believe that leaders are egotistical and driven by fame and recognition.  Godin says the opposite is often true.  Leaders who give are more productive than leaders who take.  An example describes how leaders sometimes sit in cubicles with their co-workers.  I witnessed this at one of my former jobs.  Often the office manager would sit in the cubes with his co-workers and make sure everyone was doing okay.  He ended up getting a very nice promotion.  His leadership skills are what led him to the new role.  I think he’ll be successful in anything he chooses to do.

Another example Godin mentions is how Jimmy Carter now builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.  Leaders like this get ‘paid’ by watching their tribe thrive.

Someone towards the top of the pyramid that doesn’t get their hands dirty is too far from the action to make a difference.  If they don’t see the day to day activities they aren’t in a position to make an impact.  A leader who works hard to get to the top, remembers what it took to get him there, and then remains involved with his tribe will be successful.

Leadership and Bravery

Leadership requires acting like the underdog.  Managers follow rules, they live by the book.  Following the book is hard work but it feels safe.   Leaders challenge the rule book.  They recommend things that don’t exist yet.  This takes bravery.  Managers are happy to do just enough to get by.  Real leaders fight for a worthy cause that people want to join.

The easiest thing we can do is react to something.  The second easiest thing we can do is respond to it.  The hardest thing to do is to initiate something.  Leaders initiate.  When others take themselves out of the game, leaders swoop in and create opportunities for themselves.

A line in the book I says “The status quo is persistent and resistant.”  People think that what they have is better than the risk and fear that comes with the unknown.

Life is Short

Life is too short to be both unhappy and mediocre.  We shouldn’t keep counting the days until our next vacation; rather we should construct our lives in such a way that we don’t feel like we need to escape.

Thermostats vs. Thermometers

A thermostat is much more valuable than a thermometer.  All a thermometer does is indicate the status of something.  The thermostat has the ability to change the environment.  This goes back to previous posts where I’ve disagreed with metrics.  A metric is a thermometer.  You need to do something about the results of those numbers if you want to see changes.  You can’t just have meetings explaining the results of the quarter and expect things to change for next quarter.  You need an action plan.  Godin says every organization needs at least one thermostat.  I would debate that in a very successful company you have a thermostat in every department.

Maintain the Status Quo

People show up to work every day.  They do the same thing they did last week.  They expect something to change because they are following processes. Isn’t one of the definitions of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?

Customer service reads from scripts and escalate issues to the next tier.  Successful companies like Zappos don’t use scripts.  Successful employees would want to learn how to solve a problem instead of escalating it.  Successful companies would encourage employees to do this.

People go through these routines because they feel they have to, not because they necessarily want to.  It leads to ‘the long slow death of the stalled organization.’  Leadership is the antidote.

Believe in what you do, do what you believe.  If it’s any good people will follow you.

Connecting

Godin makes a lot of strong statements that really make you evaluate yourself and how you present your ideas.  For example, if you hear my idea and don’t believe it, that’s my fault.  If you see my product and don’t buy it, it’s my fault.  If you don’t learn what I am teaching, I have let you down.

I can design my products so that you will want to learn more.  I can make them user friendly.  I can captivate an audience when I am teaching.  The choice is mine.

Recruit

When you are trying to get people to join your tribe, don’t start with the leader of the opposition.  You are better off persuading individuals who have not attached themselves to a philosophy yet.  If you can convince them to join your tribe, others will see the benefits and follow.

Try Something New

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is a very well known orchestra who needed a new conductor.  They could have picked one from the resume pool of thousands of applicants.  They hired a 26 year old newbie from Venezuela named Gustavo Dudamel instead.

They could have went with the tried and true.  But they went with something new.  They wanted something that could attract new audiences.  They got that with Gustavo.

Positive Deviants

Leaders can appear throughout the ranks in an organization.  Managers do not like deviants.  A deviant goes against standard processes which a manager sees as a failure.  A manager tries to get rid of deviants.  Leaders understand that change is necessary.  Change allows processes to become more productive, leading to happier people.  A leader welcomes deviants.

The Peanut Butter Manifesto

Brad Garlinghouse, a former Yahoo employee wrote a very persuasive memo to his superiors.  He noticed the flaws in the company’s strategy and offered solutions on how they can improve.  The full text can be found here, and I highly recommend you read it.  The memo was leaked and featured in the Wall Street Journal.  It started a chain of events that led to the CEO’s departure and kept Yahoo breathing for a few more years.  (Ironically as of this writing Brad has left Yahoo and joined AOL.  It looks like he enjoys fixing companies that were once #1 but have since taken a hit.  Maybe his next job will be at MySpace.)

Now

Godin says that the very nature of leadership is that we’re not doing what has been done before.  If we were we would be following instead of leading.  It is up to us to make the choice to lead.  We can do what thousands of others have done in the past.  Or we can try something new.

In closing Godin asks us if we’ve gotten anything out of the book, perhaps by highlighting or post-it-ing it to death, to give this copy to someone else.  I’ll leave a copy of this book on the bookshelf in my office.  I encourage you to read it for yourself, and put it back for the next person.

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Inc Magazine had a great article in their April issue aimed towards helping companies find talented candidates in a crowded talent pool.  I read the article and thought, “I can turn this around, so it can be applied to the candidates themselves.  The same tips they are telling the companies to look for in people can be used to stand out to those companies.  It’s win-win.”

The Problem for Both: The Shotgun Approach Has a Low Success Rate

The article opens with a story about a Dallas fast-food chain looking to hire 32 employees in anticipation of opening a new store.  They posted positions on the 2 major online job boards (Monster and CareerBuilder).  They bought ads in the Dallas Morning News and advertised over the local radio stations.  The result:  10,000 resumes.  It’s the recruiting version of the shotgun approach.  “Just send out as many postings as possible, that’ll give us the most resumes to look through…”  The problem:  They didn’t focus their efforts.  Blasting the openings out across all media outlets will result in all different kinds of people with all different kinds of skill sets applying for positions.  The same can be said for applicants who send their resume to 1000 different job postings in the hopes that someone will bite.  I wrote here and here how this just doesn’t work.

Solution 1: Focus on the Industry

It’s okay to use job boards, but go local.  For recruiters, this allows them to reduce the number of applicants that don’t have the qualifications.  For candidates, this narrows the competition because not everyone uses the local job boards.  You stand out more.  The article lists a lot of unique websites but I would recommend doing your own searches to find out what works best for your needs.

Solution 2: Make Sure the Resume Has the Right Words

The article recommends using special recruiting software that is designed to automate the screening process.  It helps companies narrow the results by ruling out candidates that do not have enough education, or aren’t skilled in a particular area.  For candidates, my recommendation would be to make sure your resume contains the facts needed to get through these screeners.  If the job you are applying for requires project management skills make sure it is mentioned in your resume.

Solution 3:  Pass the Test

They recommend testing the candidates early in the process to measure various skills.  Examples used are typing speed, QuickBooks knowledge, or even people skills.  My recommendation: You probably shouldn’t be applying to the job if you don’t think you are going to pass the test.

Solution 4:  It’s Who You Know

This one is obvious.  Use social-networks such as Linked-In, or ask friends for referrals.  Try and find someone that works at the company and reach out to them.  Being referred internally greatly increases your chances compared to an outsider.

Final Thoughts

It was very easy to apply these recommendations to the candidate even though the article was written for companies.  If you’re stuck in your search don’t be afraid to try to apply a story written for them and relate it to your situation.  Who knows, it just might work.

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I can’t remember how I first heard about Seth Godin.  I added his blog to my Google Reader and have been a fan ever since.  He creates new blog posts daily.  They’re usually short and direct, which is ideal for me.  I recently read The Dip, and here’s what I thought about it and how I relate to it.

What exactly is the Dip?

I interpret the Dip as ‘the point of no return’.  It’s when you are excited to try something new but don’t know a lot about it yet.  So you dive right in.  It’s fun at first, but then you get to a point where a little more skill is required.  Do you stick it out, or do you quit?  That’s where the dip lies.  Sure, you’ll learn a new language.  You buy Rosetta Stone or books on tape.  You do the first couple of lessons and never use them again.  That’s the dip.  You want to learn how to create flash animations.  You buy a book on Flash, read the first chapter, and it collects dust on your bookshelf.  That’s the dip.  You want to lose 15 pounds.  You tell yourself you are going to go to the gym 5 days a week and start eating right.  On day two you have a headache and decide to skip the gym and pick up McDonald’s.  You tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow instead.  That’s the dip.

At first whatever it is you are doing is new and exciting.  But then there’s the dip.  The dip is when it gets hard.  You have to make a choice.  Do you realize it’s not for you and quit, or do you tough it out and reach the other side?  It’s okay to quit if you know it’s not for you.  But quit when you reach the beginning of the dip, don’t do it when your at the bottom.  If you do it when you’re at the bottom of the dip you’ve wasted a lot of your time.  If you can get through the dip, and WANT to get through the dip, then you’ll be one of the best at what you chose to do. Benefits come to the smart people who push through the dip because only a tiny number of people can manage to do this.  Benefits also come to the smart people that quit early and are able to focus their efforts on something that is a better fit for them.

The toughest part is deciding what dips we should quit early on and what dips we should push through.  Whichever ones we decide to stick with, we should be aim to be the best there is for that market.

Last House on the Left – The Cul-De-Sac

Another term mentioned often throughout the book is the ‘cul-de-sac’.  The author describes it as a situation where you work and nothing changes.  It doesn’t get better or worse, things remain the same.  It’s a dead-end job.  If you want to grow as a person, you need to get off it fast once you realize you are in one.  Being in a cul-de-sac prevents you from doing other things.  The types of people I picture in cul-de-sacs are those semi-retired middle aged women working in the local bookstore to pass the time during the day.  They are there for the job, but don’t see a need to move on up.  They really don’t care to satisfy the customer or make their day special.  If your goal is to make it to the top, you don’t want to be in a dead-end job. You should always look to be growing.  Give yourself and your employees something to work towards.  It will motivate them each day to work hard.

An Example

A good example the author uses to explain the dip is with snowboarding.  It sounds new and exciting, so you think about taking it up.  Learning even the basic skills is where the dip lies.  It takes a few days to learn the simple skills during which you will catch a few bruises.  It’s easier to quit than to keep going.  Therefore, the brave thing is to tough it out and get all the benefits that come from scarcity.  However the mature thing is not to start if you know you likely won’t make it through the dip.  The stupid thing to do is to start, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the dip.

Diversification Doesn’t Always Work

Record companies hire thousands of artists hoping one makes it big.  A job-seeker takes a shotgun approach and sends his resume to 100 different companies hoping one will respond.  These people are relying on luck.

Real success is rewarded to those who focus their efforts.  An example Godin uses is a woodpecker can tap 20 times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, or the woodpecker can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.  The bird focused his efforts, and he was successfully rewarded.

Why Get Through the Dip?

Getting through the dip makes you scarce, perhaps irreplaceable.  Seth Godin recommends cancelling the space shuttle program because it is a cul-de-sac.  No one has the guts to cancel it.  However, if it did get cancelled, it would force us to invent a better alternative. People stick with it because it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to. I feel the same way about the auto industry; I would not have minded seeing companies the government supported not get help, since it would have led to newer, better, more efficient companies.  I have thoughts about the airline industry as well, not in terms of getting rid of them, but I feel there has to be a more efficient process to board and un-board passengers, taxi planes, etc.  It takes more time to board and take off than it does to fly.

Average is for Losers

The author says that the next time we realize we’re being average and feel like quitting we have only two choices.  Quit, or be exceptional.  Average is for losers.  This is a wake up call to people at the crossroads in their career.

When To Quit

When it’s a dead-end.  When you have a mountain to climb and the reward at the top isn’t worth the effort to get there.  We don’t have the time to be the best at the projects that excite us and at the ones that don’t.  When you’re wasting your time coping.  Our time is better spent doing something else.

My Assignment

Seth recommends to write down the circumstances with which we are willing to quit, and when.  I’ve kept mine private, but they are written down.

Final Thoughts

This book opens up your eyes when you’re stuck.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Just because you are breathing does that mean you are alive?  Don’t stick around because it’s easy.  Don’t stick around because you are comfortable.  Don’t stick around out of fear of the unknown.  Stick around if you think you can make a difference.  Stick around if you think you can be the best.  Stick around when you can conquer the beast that is the dip.

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I went to the “Get Motivated” business seminar today in Hartford, CT.  Below is my recap of my experience.

Prior to Going

A few weeks ago we received an email from the CEO and VP of Client Services about the upcoming “Get Motivated” seminar.  I had heard about them in the past, but didn’t know too much about them.  I talked to a few co-workers and did a Google search.  I found mixed reviews.  The worst things I found was that it could be a huge sales pitch, some people view it as very right-wing, and some of the speakers can get a little religious.  On the other hand, it could be motivational, anything is better than nothing, and I’m not easily convinced with things I do not believe in.  With work giving us the day to go, I figured I had nothing to lose.

The Event and the Speakers

There was a lot of debate between my friends on who we would actually get to see, and who might speak ‘live’ via satellite.  I was pleased to say that all speakers were live and in person.  It was open seating and we had a pretty good section.

Joe Montana – Joe Montana was the first speaker to come out.  His key points focused on preparation and fundamentals.  One thing he talked about I found beneficial was to aim for perfection.  If you miss, you will still probably end up doing very good.  If you aim for mediocrity and you miss, you’re not going to do so well.  Paying attention to details is what helps you reach the goal.

Laura Bush – The second speaker was Laura Bush.  She mentioned how George Bush Sr. just went skydiving on his 85th birthday.  I’m shocked but happy to hear it.  When I got home I did a quick search on a video of it, and that motivated me.  He did it for two reasons.  One, it was exciting, and two, he wants to stay active so he doesn’t get old and senile.  I actually wrote about this on an essay in college where I said if people find purpose in their life it helps them live longer.  I worry when people stop looking forward to things, mysterious events occur and they deteriorate physically and mentally.  Anywho, back to Laura Bush.  The main themes I got out of her speech revolved around democracy, freedom, and individualism.  Two books she mentioned during her speech are on my reading wish list, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Krish Dhanam – I never heard of this guy before the seminar, but I was very impressed.  His eloquence captivated the audience.  He quoted many famous people and books.  He has an Indian background, and I believe he migrated to the US later in his life.  His belief is that political correctness will be the death of this nation.  One thing he said that stood out was to make an impact on your new hires.  Do this by telling them “Of all the companies you could have chosen, I sure am glad you chose this one.”  Some other takeaways are, “Give more than you have; leave more than you take.”  “Offer praise to the inner circle.”  This next quote I may have recorded inaccurately, but it was something along the lines of “Look inward and upward before you can act forward and outward.”  In summary, I really liked what he had to say and he was definitely in my top 3 for the day.

Phil Town – Next was Phil Town.  Here is where I thought it got very sales-pitchy. Very quickly (can’t really hold it against him given the time frame of about 60 minutes) he went through his method of successful investing in only 15 minutes a week.  He claimed it was very easy and anyone could do it.  Then he showed us his product on the big screen, and ‘if you sign up now, we’ll throw in this special offer’.  Don’t get me wrong, it sounded very interesting, but it just sounds too good to be true.  His method had to do with covered calls, buying companies on sale using statistical software, looking at legal insider trading, and selling when the software predicts they’ve reached their high.  The software seems like it could work, but it’s $600 a year.  For now, I think I’ll stick with a basic approach of various index funds across a diversified asset allocation.

Tamara Lowe – The last speaker before the lunch break was Tamara Lowe.  She was kind of bouncy which rubs me the wrong way but I think works well with others.  She is the co-founder of the Get Motivated seminars along with her husband.  She briefly talked about how she was born in Hartford but grew up in New Orleans.  She’s a former drug addict/dealer, but has since cleaned up her life.  Her belief is that people fall under 6 types of categories, which makes up their ‘motivational DNA’.  The 6 categories can be broken down by 3 main headers:  “Drive, Needs, and Awards”.  Under drives people are either “Producers” or “Connectors”.  Producers like competition, and connectors like cooperation.  Under needs people either like “Stability” or “Variety”.  And under Awards people either want “Internal Awards” or “External Awards”.  Tamara believes that people can be classified under each of these categories, but I personally don’t think it is that cut and dry.  I think I can be competitive, but I’m also cooperative.  Ultimately I want what is best for the team, but I’m also trying to be the best.  There are certain things in life that I like to remain the same, yet in other areas I get bored and like change.  I had a hard time applying her principles to myself.  However, she did touch upon how to apply these techniques as a sales person, and I did think they could be effective in certain situations.  She was selling a book where 100% of the proceeds go to charities, but then discounted the book to everyone at the convention.  I thought this sent the wrong message…if your money is going to charity, wouldn’t you want to give them more money, not less?  I enjoyed her rap at the end though, it was good.

Steve Forbes – Steve Forbes was the first to speak after lunch.  He had a lot of talking points, but his two main topics were that we should make the dollar king again, and we need to fix the tax code.  But first he mentioned that we need to look at the examples of others to see what has worked in the past.  He discussed the success of McDonald’s and how they became the giant company they are today.  He also mentioned that in order to succeed we don’t have to invent anything new, we just have to use a product better than anyone else.  The example he used here was how Wal-Mart uses computers to help them do business.  He used a car’s gas tank in relation to symbolize pouring money into the economy.  If we pour too much, commodity prices will go up, and in the car we flood the tank.  Don’t pour enough, the car can’t go, and commodity prices drop.  He went on a while about taxes, and how we need to fix it, get rid of all the IRS code, etc.  I thought this was fine, and I was hoping he would follow up with what he plans to replace it with, which he eventually got to.  He is in favor of a flat tax, and had other ideas that could simplify the tax code that I didn’t have enough time to take notes on.  However I thought they were reasonable points.  I thought he was enjoyable listening to, and I would put him in my top 4 for the day.

Zig Ziglar – Prior to today, I had heard the name but not much else.  I knew he was a motivational speaker, but I didn’t know who he really was, how long he had been around, or what his style of motivational speaking was like.  Zig suffered a bad fall within the past few years, and has since developed vertigo and short term memory loss.  He came on stage with his daughter who guided the conversation.  Zig seems like he was a great speaker in his prime, but I genuinely felt sorry for him today.  When he started talking, about 5 minutes in he started to repeat something he said at the beginning (about courting his wife and making her happy everyday), and his daughter reminded him how he already mentioned it.  Zig has some quick wit, and responded he thought that a couple people in the front row weren’t paying attention which is why he was repeating himself.  After doing it a second time, the daughter decided to show a video.  The video contained some highlights of Zig throughout his career, and that’s where I saw that he really good speak well.  When the video was over, he was trying to wrap up but started repeating himself and his daughter had to cut him off again.  As she finished and was trying to get him off stage, you could see they turned his mic off as he was still trying to explain himself.  I felt really sorry for him at that point, and hope his memory comes back.  I think in future seminars, they should try and do it a little differently; use the video as a tribute and try and limit his time on stage; instead of asking him questions that he has to answer, tell them they are happy he is here and he can smile and wave and maybe say a few words.

James Smith – The 8th speaker of the day was a man named James Smith.  I felt another sales pitch coming on.  He started of mentioning how we should position ourself to win the game of life.  We can do this through property investing.  He mentioned tax-liens in relation to real-estate investing as well as other areas. I thought he contradicted himself in the current state of the economy and foreclosures.  At first he mentioned he hopes no one forecloses on their house, and we should help people out if we can.  Later on, he shows us a picture of a foreclosure he bought, and then another picture of the house re-modeled and how it’s gone up in equity.  I will say he was enjoyable to listen to.  I started a “watch this” counter 5 minutes in.  I counted him say ” watch this” 43 times by the end of the seminar.  A friend had seen him speak the prior year, and apparently his recent “Denny’s” story was a repeat of the last time he saw him.  One quote he said that I liked a lot was “I’m not better than anybody else, but there’s nobody else better than me.”

Rudy Giuliani – Rudy was the second to last speaker of the day.  He was a joy to listen to, I’d list him in my top 3 for the day.  He had 6 main principles of leadership.  The first was to have strong beliefs.  Believe in what you do, what you sell, how you live.  Second, we have to be optimistic.  You get more done thinking positive than you do thinking negative.  Third, we have to have courage.  Courage is overcoming fear.  Fourth we have to have relentless preparation.  We can overcome fear and reduce our risk through preparation.  Fifth, teamwork is essential.  What are our weaknesses?  Build a team around our weaknesses so that their strengths complement our weaknesses.  Teams need balance.  Sixth, communicate.  Get your ideas into the hearts of others.  Give people realistic goals to reach.  A leader has to love people.  Statistics are important, but people are more important.  I really like that last sentence.  Companies focus too much on metrics and forget it’s people and quality behind those numbers that count.  Sometimes you can’t always measure that.

Colin Powell – Last to speak (for me at least, I believe there was one last speaker after him, but everyone was leaving) was Colin Powell.  He is also in my top 3.  He was very enjoyable, humorous at times, and kept my attention.  One key point I took from him is “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.  Always look forward, you can’t change the past.”  Our job as leaders is to put followers in the best possible path for the organization.  Give the followers a sense of purpose.  Successful leaders communicate a sense of passion.  We need to inspire, make people believe there is a purpose to their mission.  We need to let people know they are important.  People will follow you when they trust you.

Final Thoughts

I read an article in the Courant this morning and it really shows how reporters angle a story.  They completely blasted the religious angle but only lightly touched upon the sales-pitch angle.  Yes it had religious moments, and it was preachy and uncomfortable at times.  But do your homework, I knew that going into it.  I am more worried about people getting excited about the sales pitches and jumping in too fast without doing more research. Do your research, look before you leap.

The cast of speakers was fantastic.   Other people I wouldn’t mind seeing speak at the event are Seth Godin, John Wooden, Joe Torre, or Clark Howard.  I wasn’t able to hand in the survey at the end because I didn’t see where to drop it off, so hopefully they read this instead.  🙂

Get Motivated exceeded my expectations.  I had a mediocre feeling going in, and was worried they were going to sell us a lot of stuff and I wasn’t going to learn anything.  There were only two sales-pitch speakers and it wasn’t as one-sided (politically) as I had read.  It was definitely a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get motivated.

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I had a conversation with a friend who was unemployed at the time of this conversation.  She has since found a job, so I figured it was okay for me to post our conversation (with her permission).

Friend:  Do you think it’s my benefit to respond to an employer’s survey about race and stuff after I submit an application?
Me: It’s up to you.
Friend:  I know but its weird how they ask you for this info saying its confidential and only used for certain purposes but I think they use it for hiring purposes to meet whatever quotas they have, and I feel like its a negative since I’m Asian-American, not exactly one of the underprivileged groups.
Friend: It should be based on sheer qualifications and abilities.
Me:  I completely agree, but I’m against affirmative action.  I think best person for the job, always.

To elaborate on our conversation for a quick bit, I believe in hiring the best person for the job, the team, and the company.  I don’t care whether they are white, black, Asian, Indian, male, female, tall, short, gay, straight, or from another planet for that matter.  If you are a good fit and will produce results, that’s the person I’d want for the job.

Later in the conversation, I mentioned to my friend it really didn’t matter if she completed the optional demographic information, because they could probably assume from her name that she wasn’t white.  Right then, whoever reads that resume might try to place a picture with the name.  If they want the best person for the job, they would call her because she is a qualified candidate and would do a great job.  If the person reading the resume wants to profile based on certain ethnicities or races, the it’s probably not a place she wanted to work anyway.

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Work and Responsibility

A good debate came up today when I was talking to a couple of friends.  I came up with four scenarios and asked them which one they thought was best:

1.  A little work and a little responsibility.
2.  A lot of work and little responsibility.
3.  A lot work and a lot of responsibility.
4.  A little work and a lot of responsibility.

A couple of them were quick to answer with choice #3, a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.  Their reasoning, in a nutshell, was that the position forces managers to work hard.  I have to disagree.

My answer was #4, a little work and a lot of responsibility.  I think this is the ideal situation for someone.  If a manager has a good team underneath him, there are many reasons he shouldn’t be working too hard.

First off, if his team is good, they are probably self starters and can begin tasks on their own with little guidance.  Second, if the team is good, the manager can trust delegating tasks to them to get the job done on time, and done right.  Third, if the team is that good, they are quick to learn new responsibilities.

The reason involves a lot of responsibility is because the manager is accountable for the work of the team.  If the team fails to do something right, the manager has to answer for it.  If the team isn’t putting in a good effort, not only does it reflect poorly on the manager, but it creates more work for the manager because now he has to do it himself.

A Story

One thing I will say is that although scenario 4 is my personal goal, I also believe that all four scenarios could be viewed as the evolution of a good worker.  They get their first job right out of college.  Unfortunately, it’s in the mail room sorting letters as a Mail Clerk.  I would classify this as a little work and a little responsibility.  But they sort mail really well, and someone recognizes it and promotes them to Cube Monkey.

Now they’re answering calls and putting cover letters on their TPS reports.  He has a lot of work, but a little responsibility.  But since they never forget to put cover letters on their TPS reports, someone recognizes it and promotes them to the Manager of the Cube Monkeys.

Some of the cube monkeys need direction and don’t always put their cover letters on their TPS reports.  The manager is learning in this stage, but at the same time he’s working really hard.  He works long hours to make sure those TPS  reports look good before he sends them out.  He has a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.  But over time the vice president of the company notices his hard work, and promotes him to Director of Strategy.

At this point, our hard worker is where he wants to be.  He manages a team of good workers underneath him.  They need little guidance from him to get their job done, but they always do their job well.  Now he’s got a little bit of work, and a lot of responsibility.

Final Thoughts

Don’t assume that ‘little work’ means that they are out playing golf while their team slaves away.  Rather, the manager can now work smarter instead of harder.  He can mentor his team and help them grow.  He can work on ways to improve processes throughout the company.  He can work with other departments to try and create a synergistic work environment.

One final point, is I hope no one gets stuck in any of the first three scenarios as they progress in their career.  Obviously the first 2 scenarios won’t be much of a progression, if anything, it’s procrastination.  They aren’t growing.  If they get stuck in the third scenario, they become a workaholic.  They feel good about themselves because they have a lot of responsibility, but at the cost of not enjoying anything outside of work.

In summary, I look at each of the scenarios as the evolution of a good worker throughout his career.  But ideally, I hope over time, he can get to a point where he works effectively; leading a good team so eventually his team members can repeat the cycle and the good worker can retire with the conscience that he did a job well done.

What are your thoughts?

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